living to a beat: minding the natural rhythms of life
Vibrant Wellness Journal is happy to host the first post of our newest writer, Matthew Lovitt. His blog, Veggie Feed, is a great source of health and wellness news, and we’re super stoked to have him join our team (you can find him on Facebook too)! Thanks Matthew, and we’re looking forward to more of your work.
I’m of the school that believes there is an intuitive force in the world that inspires every thought and guides every action. Some of these interactions are obvious and have a very permanent impact, while others may pass unnoticed and without any lasting repercussions. While I am fairly certain that the majority of us have experienced a life-altering event or two, without exception we have all been subject to an unnoticeable force that take place outside of our awareness and whose outcome changes how we feel and participate in life. The seemingly insignificant rhythm that our body observes throughout the day dictates how we respond to our external environment and can both foster and discourage the health and wellness we cherish.
Understanding the Rhythm
Circadian rhythms are the internal, self-sustaining processes that influence the physiological function of all living organisms. In humans, this ‘built in’ flow is continuously working and prepares the body for the changing biological demands of the day. These rhythms also have the ability to respond to the external environment and changes in light, temperature, time and food.
While some circadian adaptions are temporary and don’t cause a significant amount of harm, others can adversely shift the rhythm and impair biological reactivity. The most common offenders to our internal clock are altered sleep cycles and exposure to artificial light. These biological disturbances can reset internal timing signals that regulate appetite and metabolic function and have been associated with conditions like chronic insomnia, bipolar disorder, cardiovascular disease and cancer1 2.
Particularly interesting to us food and nutrition nerds is the fact that digestive and metabolic function is regulated by the body’s circadian rhythm that determines how the body integrates food nutrients. Specifically, eating the large majority of our food during daylight hours will cue metabolic activities that help efficiently convert food to energy.
Conversely, inconsistent eating patterns or eating large meals during nighttime hours can reset our rhythm and contribute to the development of obesity and metabolic conditions. For example, eating in the absence of hunger, maintaining a restricted eating schedule, or observing variable meal patterns can adversely shift our circadian rhythm and influence fat accumulation, insulin resistance and waste elimination3.
Fixing a Broken Clock
Fixing an altered rhythm is of paramount importance, but prescribing universal meal times across every individual may not consistently prove beneficial. Circadian rhythms are under the influence of genetic and cultural influence and modifications to eating schedules must take these factors into account.
The fact remains that living outside the accordance of our circadian cycle is one of the most subtle, yet most harmful ways to undermine our health. However, there a few measures we can take to reestablish our natural beat and help realign our habits with the needs of our body. A few of these measures include:
- Scheduling Meals: Eating at approximately the same times every day in accordance with culture and familial norms will ensure proper circadian function through beneficial nutritional and hormonal function.
- Prioritizing Sleep: A consistent sleeping pattern that is uninterrupted and without interference from artificial light will prevent overeating and fight a slew of unsavory conditions.
- Exercising Daily: Scheduled exercise can be used to help modulate our daily rhythm and help us reestablish balance in our biological cycles.4
Developing healthy lifestyle habits that emphasize a consistent eating schedule and prioritize sleep and exercise will greatly improve our biological and physical synchronicity with life while creating health and wellness. Sounds pretty good, right?